Well, what did you expect?

How do you feel when you hear these words? They’re not offensive, nor are they intended to do anything other than bring us back to ‘reality’! But how did they make you feel – inside your head, I mean?

The expectations in question are likely a group of assumptions I’d made, mostly out of habit. I wasn’t conscious that I’d been anticipating a specific outcome when other peoples’ actions affect me, but clearly, I had, and it’s now being openly recognized by others.

What had happened, in all probability, was that I’d set my mind on an intention, a specific outcome. That outcome was not being met!

How do I feel? My body responds to the perceived ‘let-down’ by releasing hormones that are designed to protect me. The product is often defensive / protective behavior which my mind then interprets as a challenge (at best) and/or as aggression (at worst). The walls go up – fast!

My response reflects my feelings. Hey, I’m possibly under attack! Any aggression is warranted, isn’t it?

It comes as a surprise to me that others might respond in kind. I was the one being challenged, wasn’t I?

It often takes sober reflection on the situation in its entirety, including any expectations I could have owned, before I appreciate that I may have over-reacted. I probably won’t ‘win’ this battle and I may even damage a cherished relationship in the process.

Having expectations, of ourself or others, is entirely natural, isn’t it?

Actually, no, it’s not natural, it’s learned behavior. Many, if not most, habits are formed in our teen-age years as we’re attempting to understand our place in this world. They are born out of turmoil because very little is crystal clear to us at this stage of our life.

Once identified and accepted, for whatever reason, they are rapidly enshrined as habits – thereby becoming invisible to us. These habits remain very visible to everyone else, and these others believe, justifiably, that this is who we are.

Perhaps it’s time to take stock of these hidden menaces before they do any further harm.

Try this – What do you expect of me? What do you believe I’m expecting of you?

Let’s manage the differences we identify.


  • David E.C. Huggins

    David Huggins has fully enjoyed a lifetime of experience as a military officer and as a behavioural scientist, supporting businesses and similar enterprises, at both organizational and individual levels, through leadership coaching. A contemplative Christian, he is devoted to contributing love, value, comfort, and continuity to this diverse world. He resides in Campbellville, Ontario, with his lovely and talented artist wife, Judy.